The Columbus Blue Jackets are playing well, and it’s in no small part because of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky helped pull the Blue Jackets out of a middling start to the season by going 7-2-0 over his last nine starts, allowing only 19 goals with a .933 save percentage. Look at the game-by-game breakdown:
Sergei Bobrovsky’s November
The offense has come on like a house afire as of late (well, most of it), but Bob’s stellar play gave the team enough stability to pull out of the doldrums.
Bob arrived in Columbus in June of 2012 as part of a deal with Philadelphia that sent a handful of picks to the Flyers. He turned in a masterful lockout-shortened season, pulling the Blue Jackets to within a whisker of a playoff spot. Since his arrival six and a half years ago, he’s won two Vezina Trophies and taken a rightful spot among the game’s elite goaltenders. He was, after all, the top goalie “right now” as chosen by the NHL Network just a few months ago.
Of course, nobody plays six seasons anywhere without some of the shine coming off the apple. Bob has struggled mightily in the postseason, an unforgivable sin that the 30-year-old compounded over the summer by refusing to sign a new contract with Columbus—itself compounded by the contract drama of fellow Russian teammate Artemi Panarin.
Bob’s struggles out of the gate led to the team giving Joonas Korpisalo more starts to gauge what they had in the backup, including a clear statement start on October 30 against Detroit. The young Finn has come back down to Earth (not particularly softly, either) in a trajectory exactly opposite of Bob, who has regained the top-level form we’ve all come to expect.
(Quick note about Monday night’s game: Bob wasn’t great, but we’re talking about a larger picture here. One goal was a fluke, there was a turnover goal, PK goal, etc. He’s normally better. He made several big stops and helped the Blue Jackets get a regulation win. Moving on.)
A large percentage of the fan base, if not the majority, was excited about Korpisalo getting the opportunity to earn real starts (myself included). Between Bob’s poor play and his perceived souring on Columbus—stemming in part from the club’s justified refusal to give him Carey Price money without Carey Price playoff success—the time felt right to see what Korpisalo could do. Korpisalo ended up losing that game to Detroit, 5-3, putting the CBJ’s record at 6-5-0.
Since then? See the above table. The Blue Jackets are flirting with first place in the division, playing at a 100-point pace and Bob is the biggest reason why.
That’s been the case for the past couple of seasons. This very website has pushed for trading Bob while his stock’s still high, complete with extremely persuasive arguments. Of course, the rebuttal, “Yeah, but you don’t even get to the playoffs without Bob” rings true as well. Maybe he’s figured out his postseason problems with new goaltending coach Manny Legace. Maybe he hasn’t. We won’t know until April, knock on wood (and assuming he’s still a Blue Jacket).
That’s not really the point of this post, though. The point is that Bob, Monday night notwithstanding, is on fire. Take a look at some of these saves:
Bob fights off some early drama to keep the Caps off the board: pic.twitter.com/NSVug463AJ— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) November 10, 2018
Bob has provided CBJ fans with hundreds of moments like those over the past six seasons. Nobody knows where he’ll be next year, or even how the rest of this year will go. But for now, he’s winning and the Jackets are winning with him. If this is his last season in Columbus, so be it. I want to enjoy it while it’s happening in front of us. I want to pay attention to the wizardry we’re seeing every other night and tell future Jackets fans about how he dragged this team to one last playoff run before he left.
We’ve probably been a bit spoiled for the last half-decade. And that’s OK. It’s good to have star players and set an expectation of winning, and you absolutely make your legacy in the playoffs. I’m not saying Bob deserves 10 million dollars, or that the team should trade him tomorrow, or that he’s lucky he has Zach Werenski and Seth Jones in front of him. All I’m saying is that Sergei Bobrovsky has delivered a November to remember, and I want to remember it.